“It’s all in the reflexes!” Happy 30th Anniversary To John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China

On this day in 1986, John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China was released in cinemas to mostly baffled audiences. The goofy-fun-silly-awesome cocktail of Chinese black magic, wuxia, neon, and the World Class American Bullshit Artist that is Kurt Russell’s rig-drivin’ lead character, Jack Burton was quickly relegated to cult status. As The Monster Squad was the cult sweetheart to the more popular The Goonies, so was Big Trouble in Little China the cult answer to mega-hit Ghostbusters.

This movie remains a litmus test to a certain type of film sensibility. If you don’t like this movie, it’s going to be hard for us to have any serious conversations about film, be it Kubrick, Fellini, Hitchcock or Bay’ be it gothic romance, Fordian westerns, The French New Wave or the Dogme95 movement. Because if you don’t like Big Trouble In Little China, you don’t like filmmaking.

Just remember what ol’ Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big ol’ storm right square in the eye and he says, “Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it.”

Happy 30th.

List: ‘Best Picture’ Oscar versus ‘Significant Cultural Value’

After skipping this years Academy Awards last weekend, but nonetheless reading a lot about them online the next day, I started thinking about how much I enjoyed Spotlight (it’s fantastic), but also how much we will be talking about the film in 5 years or so. The Oscars have the reputation amongst, well, everyone, that in the past decade (or three) of getting the Best Picture so utterly wrong. Now this argument may be extended all the way to the inception of Best Picture in the 1920s, and the primary question about the futility of ranking of art is: By what criteria makes any one movie the best one of the year? Not so easy, but films that resonate, have been lifted into significance over time, and otherwise tickle the popular culture in interesting ways.

Will all due respect to The Dew Over podcast, which had guests (including myself) on a panel re-assess each year (one per episode) of the past several deacades, typically -but not always- in the context of the 5 or so Academy nominations for Best Picture, I took some time to consider the innovation value, cultural imprint, the overall ‘force of contribution’ to the medium of film for any film released in that year, from any country. (This is, obviously, as I see it, of course, not by any ‘scientific or consensus metric.)

I took a look at 1980 up until 2011. These dates were chosen because they constitute my main personal time consuming movies, as well as me living during their release. I was 6 in 1980, and my parents started taking me to movies often (weekly) at about that time, especially to films that were inappropriate for my age, but I digress. I have omitted the last few years due to the need for a little time and space for things to percolate in the culture. Feel free to discuss in the comments section (Obvious Disclaimer: Clearly this is more a fun exercise than a definitive one — because that ultimately is a futile effort, there is so MUCH content in this art-form we call film to really pin anything down, but us humans like our reach to exceed our grasp.)

The format is simple. I list the film awarded by the Academy for Best Picture, then I list what I believe is the ‘best representative’ of that year (yes it is slanted towards American cinema, sue me) and I list a ‘dark horse’ choice to keep things interesting.

1980
The Best Picture Oscar – Ordinary People
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THE SHINING
Dark Horse Pick – The Empire Strikes Back (Also: Raging Bull)

1981
The Best Picture Oscar – Chariots of Fire
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
Dark Horse Pick – Excalibur

1982
The Best Picture Oscar – Gandhi
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – BLADE RUNNER
Dark Horse Pick – Fitzcarraldo

1983
The Best Picture Oscar – Terms of Endearment
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – RETURN OF THE JEDI (Star Wars)
Dark Horse Pick – Tender Mercies (Also: The Right Stuff)

1984
The Best Picture Oscar – Amadeus
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – AMADEUS
Dark Horse Pick – Paris, Texas

1985
The Best Picture Oscar – Out of Africa
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – BRAZIL
Dark Horse Pick – Back To The Future

1986
The Best Picture Oscar – Platoon
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – BLUE VELVET
Dark Horse Pick – The Mosquito Coast

1987
The Best Picture Oscar – The Last Emperor
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – FULL METAL JACKET
Dark Horse Pick – Broadcast News

1988
The Best Picture Oscar – Rain Man
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST
Dark Horse Pick – Grave of The Fireflies

1989
The Best Picture Oscar – Driving Miss Daisy
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – DO THE RIGHT THING
Dark Horse Pick – The Killer

1990
The Best Picture Oscar – Dances With Wolves
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – GOODFELLAS
Dark Horse Pick – The Sheltering Sky

1991
The Best Picture Oscar – The Silence of the Lambs
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THELMA AND LOUISE
Dark Horse Pick – Barton Fink

1992
The Best Picture Oscar – Unforgiven
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – UNFORGIVEN
Dark Horse Pick – Raise The Red Lantern

1993
The Best Picture Oscar – Schindler’s List
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – NAKED
Dark Horse Pick – The Piano

1994
The Best Picture Oscar – Forrest Gump
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – PULP FICTION
Dark Horse Pick – Chungking Express

1995
The Best Picture Oscar – Brave Heart
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – SAFE
Dark Horse Pick – 12 Monkeys

1996
The Best Picture Oscar – The English Patient
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – FARGO
Dark Horse Pick – Trainspotting (Also: Crash)

1997
The Best Picture Oscar – Titanic
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THE ICE STORM
Dark Horse Pick – Princess Mononoke

1998
The Best Picture Oscar – Shakespeare In Love
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – OUT OF SIGHT
Dark Horse Pick – The Big Lebowski

1999
The Best Picture Oscar – American Beauty
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – FIGHT CLUB
Dark Horse Pick – Eyes Wide Shut

2000
The Best Picture Oscar – Gladiator
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE
Dark Horse Pick – Memento

2001
The Best Picture Oscar – A Beautiful Mind
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (LORD OF THE RINGS)
Dark Horse Pick – Mulholland Drive

2002
The Best Picture Oscar – Chicago
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
Dark Horse Pick – City of God

2003
The Best Picture Oscar – Return of the King (Lord of the Rings)
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – MASTER & COMMANDER
Dark Horse Pick – Lost In Translation

2004
The Best Picture Oscar – Million Dollar Baby
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
Dark Horse Pick – Birth

2005
The Best Picture Oscar – Crash
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
Dark Horse Pick – Cache

2006
The Best Picture Oscar – The Departed
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THE PRESTIGE
Dark Horse Pick – Children of Men

2007
The Best Picture Oscar – No Country For Old Men
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – ZODIAC
Dark Horse Pick – There Will Be Blood

2008
The Best Picture Oscar – Slumdog Millionaire
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – MAN ON WIRE
Dark Horse Pick – Synecdoche, New York

2009
The Best Picture Oscar – The Hurt Locker
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
Dark Horse Pick – Enter The Void (Also: A Serious Man)

2010
The Best Picture Oscar – The King’s Speech
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Dark Horse Pick – Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (Also: Melancholia)

2011
The Best Picture Oscar – The Artist
More Significant Film of Lasting Cultural Value – TREE OF LIFE
Dark Horse Pick – We Need To Talk About Kevin

Please chime in with something obvious wrong, or a key title(s) I missed for each year.

Those Near and Far Wars…

Taking off his X-Wing pilot’s helmet, and putting on his Llewellyn Davis scarf, Oscar Isaac shows why he is one of the most cool actors working today by covering Bill Murray’s SNL sketch, but bringing an understated bohemian coffee shop vibe while covernig Murray’s overbearing Nick the Lounge Lizard act. Star Wars is everywhere this week, but this little bit of updated nostalgia is all class.

Tom Hanks did a thing with Carly Rae Jepsen.

TomHanksCarly

I‘m not sure how it happened, I’m not sure why it happened… but whatever the case, watching Tom Hanks strolling down the street while dancing and singing bubblegum pop music is a glorious sight to see.

Carly Rae Jepsen, best known for her unavoidable, silly, and admittedly catchy “Call Me Maybe,” enlisted Hanks to mouth the words to her latest music video, “I Really Like You,” and, well… you just have to check it out for yourself.

I’m not really sure what I just watched (although she said the video is inspired by her love of Wes Anderson), I’m not sure why Justin Bieber showed up at the end in a big-puffy coat, and I’m not sure how in the hell she got the Hanks in the first place–but I’m glad she did.

Return of the Guardians of the Galaxy

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #a9a883;”] N [/dropcap]ormally I’d place this in the Monday Suck post tomorrow but it’s Sunday and we need content and this is too well done to not have it in it’s own post. Take the music and the cadence of the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer and pop in Star Wars scenes and dialogue. Yeah this sort of thing has been done before, but this is pretty fun.

 
[quote]”This simultaneously renewed my love of Star Wars and doubled my desire to see Guardians of the Galaxy.”

       -git-shell (Reddit)[/quote]


Talking The ‘Burbs on Time Bandits Podcast

If there is one thing that keeps coming up on the Cinecast (and elsewhere on Rowthree), it is Joe Dante’s 1989 comedy, The ‘Burbs. So when the Time Bandits podcast circled around to talking about the film (and unfortunately, Skid Row’s debut album), I managed to finagle my way into Casey Lyons’s studio to join Greg LeGros and Dan Gorman in a session of ‘Burbs appreciation society. Have a listen over at their mother-site: Modern Superior.

The ‘Burbs @ 25

I hope you have a plate of crushed brownies, some salt crackers and a can of sardines to celebrate Joe Dante’s wonderfully re-watchable The ‘Burbs turning 25 years old today. All I ask is somebody please give us a BluRay, the fact that one doesn’t exist anywhere, we might have called it in Southeast Asia, ‘Bad Karma.’

If you look through the Rowthree achives, you’ll find so many references to this movie. It was a great homework assignment on the Cinecast (Where Joe Dante does an intro/bumper for us) as well as this Finite Focus entry and various little easter eggs here and there.

Below is the director waxing philosophically about the film last year when it had a repertory screening at TIFF Lightbox in Toronto.